I have something special for you today. It is the easiest loaf of (yeasted) bread that you will ever make. I add the caveat in case anyone wants to argue about soda bread, but this is a pure loaf of yeasted, white bread: crusty on the outside, soft and springy on the inside, a satisfying open crumb and an incredible flavour. And all of this with no weighing (necessarily), no kneading (hallelujah) and just one prove. You might be in a state of disbelief right now, but I tell no lies. All you need is time, a cast iron pot and these most simple of ingredients…
I’ve seen this recipe in various places around the internet, but it’s originally a Le Creuset recipe. However, you don’t need a fancy Le Creuset pot in order to make this loaf, any cast iron pot with a lid will do. I first attempted this recipe in a wood-burning stove while we were on a “yurting” holiday. I’ll save you the trouble and recommend that you use a regular oven with a steady temperature.
As I said above, one thing you need to bake this bread is time, since the single prove required takes 10-12 hours. I find that it’s most convenient to mix up the dough in the evening or right before bed, and then the next morning it will be ready for baking, the hard work having been done overnight while you slept. One thing you definitely don’t need to bake this bread is a lot of money. No fancy flour is required, since the long prove is what helps give the bread its flavour, and the other ingredients are simply dried yeast, salt and water. Out of interest I calculated the cost of my loaf using the basic ingredients I bought in Sainsburys and it came out to a whopping…23 pence! For the pedantic out there, I even calculate the price including the (estimated) cost of running an oven for an hour and it comes to 58p. If you’re interested in the calculations, I’ve popped them at the bottom of this post.* I challenge you to find as good a loaf available to buy for as little money. So there are no excuses now: plan one night ahead, grab your flour and get baking!
(One of the beautifully easy features of this recipe is that you can use cups but I’ve converted to grams/ml for those who not have cup measurements or just prefer metric weighing)
3 cups (500g) plain white flour
½ tsp fast action dried yeast
1½ tsp salt
1½ cups (300ml) water
1. Measure out the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl. Add the water bit by bit, mixing until you have a fairly wet, sticky mixture. Don’t be put off by its lumpy appearance, the magic will happen next.
2. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 10-12 hours. When you come back, the mixture should have at least doubled in size and be very bubbly.
3. Preheat the oven to 230C/210C fan/Gas Mark 8 and place your cast iron pot, including the lid, inside to heat up.
4. Generously flour your work surface and hands and tip out the dough. Again, don’t be worried if your dough feels very, very soft: it’s supposed to be.
5. Gently (so as not to knock out all the lovely bubbles inside the dough) shape the dough into a round loaf. I use a kind of “tucking and turning” motion – I found an example of what I mean in this video (55 seconds in until 1 minute 13 seconds).
6. Remove the pot from the oven. Be super careful here as the pot and lid will be scorching hot! Sprinkle a little flour into the pot and quickly transfer your loaf across – it helps to have shaped your loaf near to where you will place the hot pot since the loaf is so soft.
7. Put the lid back on the pot and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
8. Remove the loaf from the pot and place on a wire rack to cool.
Again, be careful with your pot for a while after cooking since these kinds of pans retain their heat for a long time. I’ve learned the hard way that the handle on the top becomes screaming hot, so this always makes me nervous. Transfer it to the sink as soon as you’re done, or place a pair of oven gloves on top so that no curious hands go to touch it.
Anyway, enough of the safety lecture! Allow your loaf to cool a little and then tuck in. Serve with something simple but delicious like a creamy, ripe cheese, homemade jam or rich pâté. In fact, this bread is so scrumptious that it’s perfect with just a liberal smear of top quality butter.
*Sainsburys table salt = 35p per 750g
1 tsp salt = 6g
Cost of 1½ tsp table salt = 1p
Sainsburys dried fast action yeast = 85p for 8 sachets (56g in total)
½ tsp yeast = 1.5g
Cost of ½ tsp yeast = 3p
Sainsburys basics plain flour = 55p for 1.5kg
Cost of 500g flour = 19p
Total cost of one loaf of bread = 23p
Running an oven for one hour = 35p
Total cost of one loaf of bread including oven use = 58p